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INFOCUS | CHINA-INDIA IT SECTOR | REPORT

Two Degrees of Separation POLITICS OF CLIMATE

Archana Vaidya

C

limate Politics has yet another time not let the science dictate the quantum of action, in terms of emission reduction needed from the rich developed world. It is extremely unfortunate that despite scientific evidence and the fact that the international community knows the solutions there is little ‘real progress’ in the UN climate talks regarding the manner in which these objectives are to be achieved. In the words of Michael Jacobs, visiting professor at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment in London, the Durban agreement has not in itself taken us off the 4C path we are on but by forcing countries for the first time to admit that their current policies are inadequate and must be strengthened by 2015, it has snatched 2C from the jaws of impossibility.

Current emission trends, cost of adaptation, mitigation

Climate change is a double whammy for developing and poor countries as they are brought to the brink of global tipping point largely by indiscriminate historical and current emissions of the rich, industrialized and developed world. And now they are being pushed by global climate politics which is solely dictated by safeguarding self interests to pay for the sins not committed by them. |10| India-China Chronicle  March 2012

The Climate Action Tracker estimates that global mean warming would reach about 3.5°C by 2100 with the current reduction proposals on the table. Approximate estimates indicate that the most extreme costs will be felt in West Africa and South Asia, with residual damage of 3.5% of regional GDP for 2°C warming and 5-6% for 3°C warming. There are still no new pledges on the table and the process agreed in Durban towards raising the ambition and increasing emission reductions is uncertain in its outcome. Unfortunately only rich countries have the wherewithal in terms of resources both financial and technological to help developing countries deal with and meet the expense of adaptation and mitigation. The costs for adaptation and the residual damages from climate change will increase rapidly with warming. With a 2°C warming, adaptation costs would be half those associated with a 3°C temperature rise.

‘Collective but differentiated responsibility’ does not warrant unequals to be treated equally

There is no denying the fact that historical as well as current polluters will

have to cut down emission significantly if we are serious about keeping the rise in global average temperatures since pre-industrial times below 2C (3.6F), the internationally-agreed threshold. The basic premise of UNFCCC is “collective but differentiated responsibility” thereby allowing scope for different mitigation responsibility for different countries depending upon where a particular country is at this point in time in its journey towards development. How do we expect countries with different level of development, having huge difference in per capita green house gas emission, and different financial resources thus different capa-

THE DURBAN AGREEMENT HAS NOT IN ITSELF TAKEN US OFF THE 4C PATH WE ARE ON BUT BY FORCING COUNTRIES FOR THE FIRST TIME TO ADMIT THAT THEIR CURRENT POLICIES ARE INADEQUATE AND MUST BE STRENGTHENED BY 2015, IT HAS SNATCHED 2C FROM THE JAWS OF IMPOSSIBILITY

bilities to have same responsibility and to be governed by the same rigours of legally binding emission reduction regime? The fact of ‘ecological debt’ that a country has incurred, due to historical emissions and thereby having taken much bigger ecological space than it is entitled to, will have to be kept in mind while deciding legal obligations of these countries. Climate change is a global problem and has only global solutions but unfortunately it does have local impacts. How well prepared one is to adapt and to mitigate the ill effects of rising atmospheric temperature is directly proportional to one’s financial muscles. It is a double whammy for developing and poor countries as they are brought to the brink of global tipping point largely by indiscriminate historical and current emissions of rich, industrialized and developed world, and now they are being pushed by global climate politics which is solely dictated by safeguarding self interests, to pay for the sins not committed by them. Developing countries and the least developed countries still have a long way to go and it would definitely not be in the interest of equity, fair play and justice to have restrictions imposed in their path and curb their ‘right to development’ because someone else has already occupied the ecological space that was rightfully theirs. The developed world April 2012  India-China Chronicle |11|


INFOCUS | INDIA-CHINA | ENVIRONMENT | REPORT

help developing countries adapt or adjust to the effects of climate change) and “mitigation” (money needed by developing countries to eliminate or significantly reduce greenhouse gasses). Therefore the two top big political issues at Durban were to ensure operationalisation of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), and to have post-2012 arrangements in place apart from many practical decisions that needed to be taken. As a long shot, delegates in Durban could also agree to a global target for GHG emissions for 2050, and a “peaking year” for global emission (by 2020 if there’s a serious chance of limiting warming to 2 degrees Centigrade). An ambitious scheme to protect tropical forests in return for money generated mostly by carbon credits could also be finalized during Durban talks.

What did Durban deliver?

wants the growth of developing world to be fettered by mandatory emission reduction regime and have succeeded to some extent as the same has been agreed upon and would be in force from the year 2020. However having said this if there are finances available to pursue the more capital intensive carbon benign growth path then these countries are not encumbered unnecessarily and will willingly follow the sustainable growth path. Durban has been able to extend the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012 and it has created a fund to deal with adaptation and mitigation of developing countries but on both accounts a lot still needs to be done to make them deliver. We are trapped in the midst of doing too little too late. |12| India-China Chronicle  April 2012

HOW DO WE EXPECT COUNTRIES WITH DIFFERENT LEVEL OF DEVELOPMENT, HAVING HUGE DIFFERENCE IN PER CAPITA GREEN HOUSE GAS EMISSION, AND DIFFERENT FINANCIAL RESOURCES THUS DIFFERENT CAPABILITIES TO HAVE SAME RESPONSIBILITY AND TO BE GOVERNED BY THE SAME RIGOURS OF LEGALLY BINDING EMISSION REDUCTION REGIME?

What was expected of Durban?

The discussions at Durban was expected to advance, in a balanced fashion, the implementation of the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol, as well as the Bali Action plan, agreed at COP 13 in 2007, and the Cancun agreements, reached at COP 16 last December. In view of the successive failure of the international community at both Copenhagen and Cancun to have any agreement on post 2012 emission reduction regime, COP 17 was looked upon as the last chance before the expiration of the Kyoto Protocol to get a new agreement in place to reduce greenhouse gases emissions. COP17 was also expected to witness protracted negotiations to ramp up the financial resources required by developing countries for “adaptation” (money to

Before negotiations formally started it was made clear by Japan, Russia, Canada and Australia, that they did not want a second commitment period and backed American plans for a system of “pledge and review”. The EU and most rich countries including the US were determined to get China and developing countries to commit to deeper cuts which were being strongly opposed by more than 100 developing countries including India. Finally two weeks of hectic parleys and roughly 20,000 delegates representing divergent interests and views, struggling to arrive at a workable solution, finally yielded some results. Following are the main outcomes of the Durban meet The delegates agreed to establish a new body called “Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action” to negotiate a global agreement which would develop a new protocol, “another legal instrument or agreed outcome” with “legal force” that will be applicable to all Parties to the UN climate convention. This new legally binding instrument is to be decided by 2015 and to come into force by 2020. The exact nature of this “legal instrument” or “agreed outcome” has not yet been decided. The next three years till 2015 are crucial as during this pe-

A MAJOR CONCERN RELATED TO THE SOURCES OF FUNDING FOR THE GCF IS THAT IT IS PREDOMINATELY FROM PRIVATE SOURCES THAT ARE LIKELY TO VIEW CLIMATE CHANGE MORE AS A BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY THAN A SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

riod country wise emission reductions will be decided based on review of the pledges of the rich nations, voluntary mitigation action of the developing world and of fifth assessment report of UN’s scientific body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Durban managed to extend Kyoto, whose first phase of emissions cuts run from 2008 to the end of 2012. The second commitment period will run from January 1, 2013 until the end of either 2017 or 2020 as both are under consideration. However in the bonhomie of this new global deal and a fresh lease of life that Kyoto got, little attention was given to enhancing the current emission targets for the Annex 1 countries for the second commitment period. So a second commitment period surely has been secured but its adequacy leaves a lot to desire for. European Union, the 27-nation bloc, which already has its own internal target of lowering greenhouse gases by 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, will place its current emission-cutting pledges inside the legally-binding Kyoto Protocol. EU is also open to raising its mitigation targets to 30 per cent if other countries follow suit. All the parties to Kyoto Protocol will submit their voluntary QELRO by 1 May 2012 in a “pledge and translate” exercise for the second commitment periods. However unlike Kyoto, these emission targets will not be derived, for now, by an overall aggregate level of ambition. Parties’ unilateral pledges will be converted to QELROs without April 2012  India-China Chronicle |13|


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reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, paving the way for billions of dollars of private investment. Details will be discussed in the course of next year and it may still take years until the programme takes off at a big scale. Delegates agreed to delay a decision on whether to decouple the future of JI from that of Kyoto until next year’s talks.

India’s role, stand at Durban

reference to an overall global mitigation target, not to mention one that is evidence-based. At the request of the EU and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the delegates agreed to launch a work plan to identify options for closing the “ambition gap” between countries’ current emissions reduction pledges for 2020 and the goal of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. The Durban negotiations did not manage to extend the emissions cut pledges made in both Copenhagen in 2009 and 2010 in Cancun. The Durban Package brings into operation new arrangements for making more transparent, the actions taken by both developed and developing countries, to address their emissions. This is a key measure for building trust between parties. The Durban talks made headway on agreeing the design of Green Climate Fund (GCF) to channel up to $100 billion a year by 2020 to poorer nations, but achieved little on establishing where the money will come from to fill it. |14| India-China Chronicle  April 2012

As structured, resources for the GCF will be from voluntary contributions it is important that these funds come in the form of grants and not loans and these should be additional grants committed to by the developed world above and beyond official development assistance (ODA). If funds were to come in the form of loans it is likely to increase the indebtedness of developing countries. Developed countries are committed to mobilise the promised funds through various

IT IS HOWEVER AMPLY CLEAR FROM DURBAN YET ANOTHER TIME THAT IN THIS UNEQUAL WORLD TO CURB EMISSION IN THE COMING YEARS EFFECTIVELY WILL BE AN UPHILL TASK. INDIA’S PER CAPITA EMISSION EVEN IN 2030 WILL BE LESS THAN THE DEVELOPED WORLD’S AVERAGE PER CAPITA GREEN HOUSE GASES EMISSION AND TODAY ALSO OUR PER CAPITA EMISSION IS HALF THAT OF PER CAPITA EMISSION OF CHINA

means, which include carbon trading (the real benefits of which to the environment are as yet unproven), private equities, and investments in cleaner development mechanisms. Thus, a major concern related to the sources of funding for the GCF is that it is predominately from private sources that are likely to view climate change more as a business opportunity than a social responsibility. Another fact that makes this promised amount look puny is the estimated cost given by United Nations World Economic and Social Survey in 2009, which is needed annually for adaptation and mitigation in developing countries, is between US$500-US$600 billion. The Durban talks ended six years of debate over whether and how the technology of carbon capture and storage could qualify for carbon offsets under the Clean Development Mechanism. The Kyoto scheme rewards governments or companies who invest in clean energy projects in developing countries with carbon credits, which they can trade and sell for profit. The new rules force project developers to put five per cent of the carbon credits earned in a reserve, to be awarded to them only after site monitors have proved that no carbon dioxide has leaked from the underground store 20 years after the end of the crediting period. Delegates agreed to consider private funding and market-based mechanisms as options to finance the programme on

India, as a resource-rich country, with its economy growing at a hectic pace still has to alleviate poverty for millions and at the same time deal with the consequences of climate change. The bedrock of India’s arguments in climate change negotiations right from the beginning has been equity to ensure that the developed world is made accountable for its historical ecological debt and developing countries like India get some window for unfettered growth without any legally binding emissions cuts. India is also acutely aware of the need to adopt the benign green growth path as far as possible for a sustainable future. As a country therefore it had a lot at stake getting involved in these climate change negotiations and along with other developing countries it had a challenging task to ensure that developed countries come good on their promise for providing money to combat climate change. India did register a moral victory of sorts by ensuring that equity would be central for any future climate negotiations. It would not be an exaggeration to say that to ignore equity in these negotiations would mean

Indian Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan in Durban

THE BEDROCK OF INDIA’S ARGUMENTS IN CLIMATE CHANGE NEGOTIATIONS RIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING HAS BEEN EQUITY TO ENSURE THAT THE DEVELOPED WORLD IS MADE ACCOUNTABLE FOR ITS HISTORICAL ECOLOGICAL DEBT AND DEVELOPING COUNTRIES LIKE INDIA GET SOME WINDOW FOR UNFETTERED GROWTH WITHOUT ANY LEGALLY BINDING EMISSIONS CUTS

South Africa Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane in Durban

signing the death warrant for millions of people across the developing and the LDC world living in subhuman conditions. It is a fight between “right to life” versus “right to maintain a lifestyle” and India with the support of other developing world has managed to enlarge that window for unfettered growth at least outside of mandatory emission reduction till 2020. COP17 has also shown the need to combine the UN approach with country driven climate efforts and the slow pace here should not be an excuse for inaction at the local level. It is however amply clear from Durban yet another time that in this unequal world to curb emission in the coming years effectively will be an uphill task. India’s per capita emission even in 2030 will be less than the developed world’s average per capita green house gases emission and today also our per capita emission is half that of per capita emission of China. It would be very challenging in this scenario to ensure that principles of equity are adhered to and the target of 2oC temperature increase is anywhere within reach. 

Archana Vaidya is an advocate and managing partner in Indian Environment Law Offices (IELO), a natural resource management and environment law firm based out of New Delhi, India.

April 2012  India-China Chronicle |15|


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